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| August 21, 2019

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REVIEW: Trover Saves The Universe (PSVR)

John Reilly

If Squanch Games’ previous VR collaboration with Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland left you craving a more substantial, premium experience, then this expansive, foul-mouthed follow-up should prove just the ticket. Trover Saves the Universe is far from the on-rails, sub-hour-long “experience” that was 2017’s Accounting+, instead offering up a fully-fledged – if still relatively linear – sci-fi adventure title that owes more than its fair share to PSVR smash hit Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

 

 

Long story short, the player controls a “Chairorpian”, a member of an armchair-bound humanoid race, whose dogs are dognapped by a gelatinous, beaked maniac named Glorkon. Glorkon has shoved the poor canines into his eye-sockets and is exploiting their life-force in a plot to annihilate the universe.

Enter Trover, a crude, purple creature who the Chairorpian must physically manipulate in order to traverse the universe, collect various trinkets and find a way to stop Glorkon at any cost.

Trover Saves the Universe touts 17 story chapters spread across a roughly five-hour play-time, with chapters ranging from fleshed-out mini-hub worlds to static, five-minute cinematic skits. The main worlds the player visits present a breezily efficient mixture of combat, platforming and puzzle-solving, wrapped around the uniquely garish and stupidly offensive sense of humour Roiland has made his name on.

 

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What’s apparent first and foremost here is the pronounced feeling of VR presence. This is a handsome-looking title and, like many of the most aesthetically pleasing PSVR games to date, embraces a heightened, cartoonish style rather than reaching for any semblance of “realism.” The worlds you visit are all uniquely bizarre – and, often, revolting – and much the same can be said for the game’s demented, brilliantly-voiced cast of characters also. Getting to interact with them in such a tactile and absurd fashion is seriously enjoyable in VR.

At first glance, Squanch’s solution to locomotion might seem a tad awkward, yet it’s one players are sure to quickly acclimate to. Trover Saves the Universe only features DualShock 4 support, and just like Astro Bot Rescue Mission, the controller is itself represented within the game.

Though the player has a full axis of control for Trover’s movements, in order to transport their Chairorpian protagonist they must navigate Trover to various teleportation points, which will then allow the player to teleport to the very same position. It’s not a particularly elegant answer to PSVR’s technical limitations, but it’s certainly functional enough and quickly feels like second nature – especially as the player soon unlocks enhanced movement upgrades for both their armchair and Trover.

The vast majority of the worlds require the player to carry out a fetch quest of some kind for a larger-than-life indigenous character from that world, which will (theoretically) lead to the reward of a story-relevant item. It’s fair to say that the core gameplay is quite conventional for the standards of a “flat” platformer, but the combination of impressively immersive VR and Roiland’s writing-voice acting combo elevate the end result so much more.

 

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This isn’t a difficult or particularly complicated game by any means, and you’ll certainly never struggle to know where to go next. Combat is intensely simplistic button-bashing fare even as you accrue more complex battle options throughout the story, and sadly, enemies are just generic, forgettable re-skins across the worlds. Some may therefore find the action a bit dull, but at least it almost never frustrates, only ramping up in volume at the tail-end of the game.

Platforming is likewise very straight-forward, though players may find mild irritation with some of the awkwardly limited vantage points on offer when leaping between platforms. Again, though, there’s little here to truly challenge, even if missed leaps will likely account for your only deaths throughout the entire game.

Though Trover Saves the Universe does also present the expected platformer collectibles by way of squishy power-ups called Power Babies – which can be used to enhance your health – Roiland sensibly doesn’t throw up any arbitrary roadblocks to progress.

The game never pulls a Nintendo and slow progression by forcing you to re-play levels and hoover up more collectible tat, for instance. However, if you do commit yourself to picking up every Power Baby, they add a significant chunk of play-time on top of the core experience.

But again, what really makes this game sing more than anything else is its sheer, surreal personality. Like Accounting+, it’s a game that rewards those who stop to smell the roses rather than rush around. Roiland claims Trover Saves the Universe touts up to 40 hours of recorded dialogue, much of it quasi-improvised, and whether that’s an exaggeration or not, it’s clear that this game is utterly overflowing with dialogue from all of the NPC’s and Trover alike.

 

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Stick around after an alien character tells you to, uh, f-off, and you might find them therapeutically rubbing their nipples in ecstasy, or listen in on two recurring henchman characters long enough to hear them self-reflexively riffing on the pointlessness of their existence.

There are also some minor branching narrative elements which present mild replay value, and upon replaying several levels, I found much of what I assumed to be main scenario dialogue had been interchanged with an entirely new variant.

The game’s push-and-pull between casual banter and scripted set-pieces does occasionally result in annoying glitches and spotty game logic, however. In one level, I was required to reload the checkpoint twice, simply because I reacted too quickly to a scripted segment and the game simply failed to trigger the next part.

If Trover Saves the Universe wouldn’t present quite the same allure outside of VR due to its simple core gameplay – and indeed, it can be played flat – the added immersion does a fantastic job of enhancing Roiland’s bonkers comedic vision. It’s an easy sell for Rick and Morty fans above all else, even if Roiland employing his “Morty voice” for Trover does feel somewhat cynical, if not outright lazy.

And if you do play the game, make sure to stick around for the end credits sequence, which must surely be the coolest of any PSVR game to date.

Trover Saves The Universe is available for PS VR now for €29.99 on the PlayStation Store.

 

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Review Overview

Overall
8
8

Very Good

A darkly comical VR adventure from the mind behind Rick and Morty, Trover Saves The Universe could have easily been a huge vanity project by Justin Roiland but, having played it, it's actually a very well executed title!

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